Everyone grieves a death in different ways and the stigma attached to suicide adds another challenge.
Suicide survivors say it can be hard to find someone to talk to, but the Survivors of Suicide support group offered through The Chaplaincy in the Tri-Cities helps provide a safe place to mourn and heal.
"I received healing profoundly from that group," said Diane Hansen, 72, of Kennewick. "It was amazing."
Hansen's first husband, Bob Harmon, killed himself in a mental hospital in 1964. He was 27. She was 26.
After his death, Hansen saw a social worker at the facility and received some counseling, but she remarried quickly, got busy with life and didn't realize how his death still affects her decades later.
"He killed himself just before Christmas that year, so that was my focal point," she said. "It got to where I didn't like Christmas, and I could hardly wait to get it over with."
Hansen found out about the Survivors of Suicide group after she started volunteering at the Hospice House and saw a list of the support groups offered.
"I thought, you know, it doesn't get any easier as the years go by, it just gets harder," she said. "It's never too late to access the grief and deal with it."
The 12-week program meets one night a week for 90 minutes.
It is offered three times a year -- fall, winter and spring -- with the next group starting Jan. 9, said Deborah Robbins, bereavement coordinator at The Chaplaincy.
They use the book Understanding Your Suicide Grief by Alan D. Wolfelt, to help guide and focus them. About half of the meeting is spent discussing parts of the book and the other half gives people a chance to talk about how they are doing.
"It's the bonds, really, that are created between the people and the group that really help with your healing," Robbins said. "What we're doing is providing support through the grief journey. ... We use the book to understand the grief journey, because we're not prepared in our culture on how to deal with grief. And when it's a suicide grief, it just adds complexity to the journey."
Robbins, who has been facilitating the suicide support group for about four years, says there has been three to seven people participating in each group. Support groups often are small because people are hesitant to ask for help, she said.
"Our culture gives us messages that we're just supposed to get over it," she said. "But they can come to group and understand they're not alone in their feelings. They find that information through reading the book and listening to others share their experiences."
Hansen said she found that talking about her husband's suicide helped her, and she also thought Wolfelt's book was more meaningful to her because he writes about his own experience following the death of a close friend.
"We are all in the same boat. We'd all had this same loss that other people don't want to talk about. We were there. We had to talk about it," she said. "Some people didn't read the book -- they couldn't -- but they shared. I don't know how it worked, but it worked for me. ... I didn't even realize what a burden I was carrying."
Talking about it helps with the grief, but Hansen said she also hopes it helps people who are considering suicide.
"Shining a light on things helps," she said. "Maybe a lot of people have thought of suicide, so bringing it up touches their fears and guilt, maybe that's a part of why people don't mention it.
"I want people to know that they can get help, and it isn't too late."
Anyone having a tough time dealing with a suicide but may not feel a support group is the best path right now to help them, can still call Robbins to talk about what they're going through and find out more about the group.
"I encourage people to be very gentle with themselves when they're going through deep grief," Robbins said.
The Chaplaincy also offers grief support groups for widows, parents, adults dealing with the loss of a parent and for children ages 3-18 dealing with death.
They're also working on starting a men's drop-in support group in January, and are offering four two-hour sessions called Hope for the Holidays to help those dealing with loss during the holidays.
For more information on the Survivors of Suicide group or other grief support groups, call Deborah Robbins at 783-6245 or go to www.tcchaplains.org.
Suicide warning signs
Suicide warning signs
The more of these signs a person shows, the greater the risk. Warning signs are associated with suicide but might not be what causes a suicide. Signs include:
-- Looking for a way to kill oneself.
-- Talking about wanting to die, feeling hopeless or having no purpose, feeling trapped or in unbearable pain or being a burden to others.
-- Increasing use of alcohol or drugs.
-- Acting anxious, agitated or reckless.
-- Sleeping too little or too much.
-- Withdrawing or feeling isolated.
-- Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge.
-- Displaying extreme mood swings.
What to do
If someone you know exhibits warning signs of suicide:
-- Do not leave the person alone.
-- Remove any guns, alcohol, drugs or sharp objects that could be used in an attempt.
-- Take the person to an emergency room or seek help from a medical or mental health professional.
Call 911 or crisis helplines:
-- 783-0500 or 800-783-0544, the Benton Franklin Crisis Response Unit.
-- 800-273-TALK (8255), the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
-- 866-4-U-TREVOR (866-488-7386), the Trevor Lifeline, which focuses on help for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth.
More information on prevention and awareness programs is available at:
-- Youth Suicide Prevention Program, www.yspp.org, or by emailing Kristi Haynes at firstname.lastname@example.org.
-- American Foundation for Suicide Prevention,www.afsp.org.
-- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.
-- Paula Horton: 582-1556; email@example.com